National Arts Centre, Ottawa ON
Thursday, October 17 through Saturday, November 2, 2002
MARY'S WEDDING, written by Calgary playwright Stephen Massicote, is the love story of a young woman, a young man, and the war that separates them. This beautifully poetic play is in the form of Mary's dream the night before her wedding. It shifts back and forth between the prairies of western Canada and the trenches of Normandy, between past and present, and between dream and reality.
The action takes place on a multi-level unit set cleverly designed by Christina Poddubuik. The construction suggests both the farm and the trenches, and the backdrop of moving panels provides an excellent dreamscape. Miss Poddubuik is also responsible for the simple but versatile costumes.
John Munro's lighting and Peter McBoyle's sound designs are nothing short of brilliant. Always subtle and never distracting, they seem to almost add a third character. The delicate changes in the sky, the increasingly flat light in the trenches, the musical underscore, the rain storm I could go on and on but suffice it to say it's truly beautifully done.
Jenny Young's performance as Mary is very strong and she does an excellent job of handling the poetic narrative sequences. She was involved with the workshop of the play last year, which no doubt has allowed her a lengthy acquaintance with the character. Mary's strength conceals a deep vulnerability. In her dream Miss Young also plays Sergeant Flowers, Charlie's battlefield commander and friend. This allows Mary's understanding of Charlie to become even more apparent.
Stephen Holmes is wonderful as Charlie, a shy farm boy who dreams of cavalry charges, little knowing the cavalry is destined to charge a battery of machine guns and artillery. His initial few meetings with Mary are played with great sensitivity. Their awakening love for each other is shown with both delicacy and humor.
Marti Maraden, the Artistic Director of the NAC's English Theatre, has done a superb job of directing this beautiful play. The staging is wonderful and clarifies what, in less sure hands, could become a confusing mix of dream and reality. Her experience with what works in the theatre is evident in her knowledge that a single echoing rifle shot is much more dramatic than a barrage.
Mr. Massicotte has written a beautiful play with both poetic shape and substance. Although it is no doubt an anti-war play, he never proselytizes and sticks to the love story. As Mary says to herself when catching a glimpse of Charlie, "Try not to let your heart fly out of your mouth." I'm sure young Mr. Massicotte has a long and successful career in the theatre ahead of him.
I'm running out of superlatives, but one suggestion; if you go - bring Kleenex. On a scale of one to five the National Arts Centre production of MARY'S WEDDING gets five Royal Canadian Mounted Police. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.